Williamson County Commissioners Court voted unanimously during its June 25 meeting to accept funds from a grant program offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The gist

County documents show the grant, named the Emergency Solutions Grants Program, awarded the county $162,125 in funds for a five-part program aimed at assisting residents experiencing homelessness.

Recipients of the grant are required to match grant funds with equal contributions, which can include cash donations, donated buildings or materials, and volunteer services.

The ESG’s five components are:
  • Engaging individuals and families who are homeless and living on the street
  • Improving the number and quality of emergency shelters
  • Helping to operate these shelters
  • Providing essential services to shelter residents
  • Offering rapid rehousing assistance

The funds will be allocated to Bluebonnet Trails Community Services as a subrecipient, said Sally Bardwell, Williamson County Community Development Administrator, during the presentation, and the organization will report back to the county on their usage.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long endorsed the grant as a way to further the partnership between the county and Bluebonnet Trails. Since the organization already works in this space, Long said accepting the grant won’t feel like starting from scratch.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Terry Cook and Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell highlighted how the grant would help struggling residents.

“Last night I was at [a meeting for] the board of directors for Opportunities for Williamson and Burnet Counties, and they are being inundated with requests,” Cook said. “And it’s not the elderly and the disabled, ... but 30- and 40-year-olds that are looking for housing, looking for shelter. It’s people you don’t normally see in a homeless situation.”

Gravell said the issue of housing goes back to inflationary increases.

“Many folks are struggling, so we are grateful for this opportunity,” Gravell said.

What else?

The county will incorporate these funds into its Community Development Block Grant Five-Year Consolidated Plan, according to county documents, which is being developed.

In fiscal year 2023-24, HUD awarded the county with $2.12 million in funds. A list of the projects and partner organizations carrying them out were unanimously approved by commissioners during the June 25 meeting.

They include the Habitat for Humanity of Williamson County Home Repair Program, and the Hill Country Community Ministries Social Service Rental and Utility Assistance program.

However, the commissioners court did not accept $594,780 in funding through HUD’s Home Investment Partnerships Program, which is dedicated to offering affordable housing to low-income residents.

Long said the county spoke with Bluebonnet Trails Community Services representatives, and based upon that discussion, the county is not interested in the HOME program.